Not a lot jumps out of the federal government’s budget of fiscal restraint, according to Yukon’s member of parliament.
“This isn’t a flashy budget,” MP Brendan Hanley told the News by phone on March 28.
“I think it’s an appropriate budget for where we are and considering that we’re in a tough time.”
Health care, affordability and green energy are the main areas of spending the federal government is focusing on.
“This is definitely a national — rather than a regional — budget,” Hanley said.
Unlike last year, the 2023-24 budget tabled March 28 by Chrystia Freeland does not include a specific line item for the Atlin hydro power expansion project.
“We know that there’s interest now in the Yukon, and the premier has expressed interest in how do we look for a pathway towards grid connectivity with B.C.,” Hanley said.
“I think there are some potential funds and opportunities here, again, I think, more to be kind of fleshed out as we learn how these funds could be utilized and how they will be implemented.”
About 9,000 lower income individuals or families in the Yukon could benefit from the so-called “grocery rebate”, a one-time boost to the GST credit that will provide $467 to eligible couples with two children, $234 to single Canadians without children and $225 to seniors, on average, for a total of $2 million in targeted inflation relief provided in the territory.
“It’s not huge, but for people struggling with grocery bills in lower margins of income that can be a significant top up,” Hanley said.
“It’s recognizing that there are people who are more vulnerable to the difficult times that we’re in with rising costs, prices, particularly the grocery prices, and that we need to do more. The federal government has a role there, but at the same time, we can’t massively put money into the system, because that will then just get us into that vicious circle of increasing inflation.”
In a March 28 release from Hanley’s office, the territory’s share of the federal health plan is $380 million over 10 years, which includes $195 million in new funding.
“There’s definitely lots there to do some really good work in terms of reforming primary care, helping with mental health care, recruiting professionals, those kinds of elements,” Hanley said.
According to the release, to get more doctors and nurses to work in rural and remote communities, the budget proposes expanding the Canada student loan forgiveness program for doctors and nurses to more rural communities, including communities with populations of 30,000 or fewer.
While the Yukon government already has started its own dental plan, the federal government’s plan is highlighted in the release. The plan will cover uninsured Canadians who make less than $90,000 a year, with no co-pays for those with family incomes under $70,000.
There is funding to support initiatives to improve access to harm reduction and treatment services, prevent substance use among young people and take further actions to tackle drug trafficking, the release states.
Following the shooting down of an aerial object over the Yukon in February, there is nothing new in the budget for issues like national defense, Arctic security and sovereignty.
“There’s definitely a commitment to that, even though it’s not directly reflected in this budget,” Hanley said.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org